January 13, 2004

Buenos Aires, Argentina

I don't know what I can say about Buenos Aires that hasn't already been written a thousand times - and Buenos Aires has inspired a lot of writing.

Buenos Aires really is Europe in South America. Dripping with theater, music, art, architecture, fashion and cuisine, this city of about 17 million almost seems to have been transplanted from the other side of the world, but muted Latin American characteristics betray the city's location. Populated almost entirely by Europeans about 500 years ago, the city maintains their culture in just about everything.

Much has also been written about the dysfunctional collective mentality of this city. Pundits seem to love typecasting locals as European wannabees, reminiscing the past glory of their city and secretly lamenting the unattainable of European equality. I've encountered none of this. The people here have as much style, charm and warmth as you could hope to find anywhere else.

I suppose however, that it's possible Argentina's recent political and economic problems have taken some of the collective huff out of Buenos Aires' sails. This used to be one of the world's most expensive cities, more expensive than Paris even, and the peso was pegged to the US dollar one-to-one. When Argentina faltered on $200+ billion in loan payments to the IMF in 2001, the economy melted. The peso was unpegged and plummeted immediately. The economy has since regained strength, but the peso is still only a third of what it was, and Argentina's problems with it's politicians (it's presidents especially) are still legendary.

I'm leaving tomorrow for Patagonia. I've only been here in Buenos Aires 5 days, and if Patagonia wasn't somewhere I've always wanted to see, I don't think I'd leave. I think I only leave now knowing I'll be back in a week.

Posted by dhuska at January 13, 2004 03:53 PM